Importing an American motorhome. We're seeking experienced advice.

Submitted: Tuesday, May 05, 2015 at 20:15
ThreadID: 117743 Views:2431 Replies:9 FollowUps:17
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Hi everyone
We are looking into importing a pre 1988 class A motorhome.
We've already learned quite a lot about the purchase and importing.
We've spoken to vic roads and got all of the information on what they require.
We'd like to hear other peoples experiences, both the good and the bad.
About using an agent to view and test. Versus doing it yourself.
Which importing company to use and why.
We are looking at shipping from Canada because of the value for our dollar ?
We have a list of what makes we can import and what we cannot due to body widths and rear overhang.
The motorhomes we're looking at offer amazing value for money.
The fit outs and workmanship are first class.
Even after all of these years we think they're outstanding.
We want to tow our cruiser behind it.
We've met some people who have them and heard there stories and they are so happy with them.

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Reply By: Member - Bigred13 - Tuesday, May 05, 2015 at 21:06

Tuesday, May 05, 2015 at 21:06
Hi Bob,I have not had any experience of this myself,but have spoken to a bloke who had one in the U.S. For 8 months,then was having it shipped back here,but I believe he said he had to get it changed from LHD to RHD in Brisbane and I think the 210V wiring and power points changed as wel to meet Australian rules ,but I guess you may know more having talked to VicRoads .
Regards John
AnswerID: 553364

Follow Up By: Member - Bigred13 - Tuesday, May 05, 2015 at 21:09

Tuesday, May 05, 2015 at 21:09
Hi Bob ,I believe he sent it from LA then to Tokyo ,then to Adelaide,as the rates were better LA to Tokyo as it is a busy run then to Adelaide
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Follow Up By: Member - Tony H (touring oz) - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 01:45

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 01:45
Hi Bob,
Ditto to Bigreds comments,
Steering conversion cost AND dramas. Probably a full set of tyres & seat belts as they wont comply here also headlights.
US/Canada 110volt wiring does NOT comply here. (total 240 volt A/Cond & fridge??).
You will have to put in an access door on the opposite side.

Think seriously about your intended purchase.....any savings on purchase price will soon be outweighed by importing, conversion & compliance costs!!
Good luck
Insanity doesnt run in my family.... it gallops!

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Follow Up By: BunderDog - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 06:05

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 06:05
Pre 1989 doesn't need to be converted.
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Follow Up By: BunderDog - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 06:09

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 06:09
Importing a pre 1989 vehicle
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Follow Up By: Ozhumvee - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 06:41

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 06:41
As long as the vehicle is more than 30 years old you don't need to change to RHD and can leave it as is BUT having driven a LHD vehicle on Aussie roads for an extended period it isn't without its dangers.
The big one is approaching an angled intersection on your right in a vehicle with large blindspots you cannot see the oncoming traffic, changing lanes to the right is also a problem as well as merging lanes as you are relying totally on your mirrors.
Electrical and gas upgrades are required to Aussie standards as well which may involve replacing appliances if 240v or gas bits are not available for the existing items.
1996 Oka Motorhome

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Reply By: TomH - Tuesday, May 05, 2015 at 23:29

Tuesday, May 05, 2015 at 23:29
You should ask this question on the Caravaners Forum.

Cant wait for the bunfight
AnswerID: 553366

Reply By: Bigfish - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 07:19

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 07:19
Trying to save money with a 30 year old vehicle that needs a total rewire, tyres, lights, certification....NO WARRANTY....Had mates do a similar things with motorbikes. At a time when aussie dollar was good. Worked out ok, some dramas, some rip offs..

Buy local, save your money and no stress.
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Follow Up By: Bob W5 - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 08:19

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 08:19
Hi Bigfish.
"Buy local and save no stress". "No warranty".
Been there, done that. = Heaps of stress trying to get the manufacturer to honour the warranty !
For us it's more about the quality you get for your money. After meeting people here and seeing there motorhomes, hearing there stories, and comparing what we get for our money here wether it be a caravan or or a bus conversion, for us there is just no comparison.
We currently own an true off road caravan and tow it with our cruiser.

We are looking at more touring and less off road.
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Follow Up By: Bigfish - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 08:40

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 08:40
Bob , you are probably better off just biting the bullet and doing it. Can you get the manufacturer over there to wire it up for 240 volts. Get the solar on the roof. Just thinking , the tyres should be ok as we import from America anyway(Canada may be another issue. ). Anyway you,ll end up with a set of tyres you will use anyway!

I don't know much about the local business,s. Have read some horror stories though.

Good luck and its good to see people doing their homework properly before departing with their hard earned dollars.

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Reply By: TomH - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 08:49

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 08:49
What size engine has it got and are spares available for it. Certainly wont be in the back of beyond in Aussie.

We were going to hire a camper van in the USA and found that the fuel costs were prohibitive compared to a car and using motels.

As said electrical sockets and wiring wont comply as old wiring in USA is usually 2 pin only Apparently is illegal to use a stepdown converter to run US appliances. Gas lines etc dont comply.

Can you actually flat tow a Cruiser. Some 4wd's you cant.

Lots of for and against on dedicated Caravan forums but most on later models and 5 ers
AnswerID: 553371

Reply By: The Landy - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 11:08

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 11:08

I can’t offer any specific advice on the importation; however the comment that they offer value for money caught my attention.

My question, if it helps in your deliberations, is any motor-home that is near 30-years old likely to offer real value for money given the technology, safety systems and overall product is almost from another era. Value for money considerations would need to look well beyond the purchase of the motor-home and include the cost of landing it in Australia, bringing it to Australian standards, ongoing cost of sourcing parts and servicing.

Looking at the value of our dollar in terms of how many Canadian dollar you will receive, if I look back to the vintage of the motor-home, 1988, the value has been as high as circa 1.1000 to the Australian dollar, a low of around 0.7200 to the Australian dollar, and is currently 0.9600 to the Australian dollar – which is in round terms about mid-point, so no real currency benefit versus the historic norm…

If you were an enthusiast that was looking to own one of these for the simple reason of owning it then it would make sense to do so, people collect lots of things. But if it is something you intend to use regularly as a touring vehicle in Australia then maybe there are other alternatives that will serve you better...

Mind you, each to their own and I hope it goes well if you proceed.

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
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Reply By: gbc - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 14:12

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 14:12
Most of those were 454 chev's with auto boxes - mmmmmm 33 odd litres per hundred (7-8 mpg)
Here's hoping you find an old diesel one.
AnswerID: 553381

Reply By: Bob W5 - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 22:02

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 22:02
Thanks to everyone for your replies.
We're enthusiastic about it. But not set in concrete. Lol.
We're looking at the diesel pushers, backed up with the allison auto.
These motorhomes will power themselves for days on end with a built in generator.
Along with a huge bank of batteries and a complete monitoring system.
Extensive heating and cooling. etc etc.
We've got a lot more homework to do !
But half of the fun is in the chase eh. Lol
AnswerID: 553395

Follow Up By: oldtrack123 - Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 17:51

Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 17:51
RE Generators, there have been requirements for the generatosr to be modified to 240v
& replated with new details, I know of that occurring in QLD.

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Reply By: oldtrack123 - Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 22:29

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 22:29
As others have said you could have problems with compliancing for:
Gas lines & appliances
ALso with ALL the Electrics including, the generator, wiring,.acccessories & appliances
Strongly suggest you also consult your STATE energy safety office & ask questions about those matters BEFORE you jump in.!!!

AnswerID: 553397

Follow Up By: BunderDog - Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 04:51

Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 04:51
PeterQ, Have an OT question for you. Is it legal to wire a 110v circuit into a kitchen using a stepdown transformer and using US plugs etc. Discussion on another forum. I say no but could be wrong.
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Follow Up By: TomH - Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 07:49

Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 07:49
Has been said that NO its not legal See here for a good description
and here
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Follow Up By: oldtrack123 - Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 15:38

Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 15:38
BunderDog posted:
PeterQ, Have an OT question for you. Is it legal to wire a 110v circuit into a kitchen using a stepdown transformer and using US plugs etc. Discussion on another forum. I say no but could be wrong.

Two Anwsers:
Any electrics exceeding 50V Ac must comply to Aus standards to be approved & legal[That includes appliances ]
The use of step down transformer does not comply to Aus standards BUT
A long time ago exemptions were made for people who bought a van ecs while overseas & wanted to bring it back to Aus

Transformers were allowed for that purpose but only for the actual owner who brought it home
They were given special approval But that approval is not transferable to another buyer of the van.

That system has been abused by middle men & has got out of control
There are definate safery issues with such set ups, which is why they CANNOT comply to Aus Standards
You may note that some of the middle men suggest they will get all the "compliancing" GAS & Electric done for you,I would suggest you ???????
BEWARE It cannot be compliance approved to AUS standards.
.All they have done is put the problem back onto you If you wish to resell
Some time ago ,about 3years, from memory there was a looong & heated discussion on this forum
If you searth for 240/ 110V transformer it should come up
In fact you will find many RV forums have the same subject
Caravan & motor home ,Caravanners, Grey nomads to name 3 .
It was also on the old CMCA forum
Collynn Has verified what I had posted in much earliers.
I gave him my contacts in some state ESOs & with the elecrical STANDARDS committee

in Aus ESO officed & with STandards Aus I gave him contacts
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Follow Up By: oldtrack123 - Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 17:46

Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 17:46
Further to the above post

The only way a240 to 110V transformer can be used is
IF it is connected to a single appliance'/ tool
In the case of kitchen appliances preferably permanently wired & built in the EACH appliance

Certainly cannot be on a circuit suppling multiple outlets
Perhaps that person is referring to a clause in the Standards which basically ONLY applies to hotels & such for use of guests from overseas
There are strict requirements to that , including, maintaining total isolation from other ciruits including earths
Some do misread THAT
But A check with any states's ESO should clarify
The above has also been confirmed to me@ the same time as the VAn situation [several years ago ,PRE COL Rivers article]

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Reply By: WayneD - Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 12:11

Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 12:11
I am living in Virginia and have driven all over the US in the last 2.5 years. There are huge lots of these Motor Home sale yards through the US. You may be able to negotiate a very good price for a newer model. Having driven on the wrong side for the last 2.5 years I am sure I would not want to drive a left hand drive vehicle in Oz, it would add a lot of stress to the driving experience.
Most vehicles have red indictors over here so you would need to change that. Not that Americans use indicators

Depending where the vehicle has been stored/driven, rust may be an issue if it was driven in an area that uses salt on the roads during winter, and that covers a lot of states.
Don't forget to take into account what the banks will charge you on the exchange rate conversion and if you go via USD/CAD and then to AUD/CAD you will get stung twice.
Might be with signing up to someone like OzForex who will undercut the banks by at least 100 points.
AnswerID: 553415

Follow Up By: TomH - Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 12:16

Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 12:16
A newer one would require a full conversion Pre 1989 doesnt apparently
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Follow Up By: Bob W5 - Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 18:13

Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 18:13
Thanks Wayne.
If we end up doing this, wherever we buy it.
We were thinking that it would be much cheaper for us to drive it to say Vancouver and ship it out from there, given the better $ exchange rate.
What do you think ? How would you go about it please ?
I imagine that I would like to go to the USA to view and test drive myself. I've heard that there are some good agents to hire to act on your behalf ?
We've still got plenty of homework to do ! Lol.
I envy your position and adventures.
It would be an awesome adventure to travel around the USA.
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Follow Up By: WayneD - Friday, May 08, 2015 at 01:24

Friday, May 08, 2015 at 01:24
Hi Bob
Don't know where you are picking the truck up but you would have to drive it to Vancouver before any of the snow hits. Let me tell you it is scary stuff driving in snow, especially when people don't slow down.
Some dealers will let you hire their vehicles so it may be worth spending some time to drive around before you buy if that is an option, just make sure you take out insurance. The other thing is the cost of driving to Vancouver from wherever and shipping costs, when you work out the difference in exchange rates it may not be all that much of a saving.
If you want to watch the Ozzie dollar for trends I would follow I know the guy that does that page and he has been pretty spot on for the last couple of years (I had 30 years as a currency trader in OZ, London and NY).
We have been lucky enough to have seen 39 states so far and spent last year away from Virginia most weekends plus a couple of short breaks. But I am looking forward to getting back to Oz and getting out to the peace and quiet of the bush.
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Follow Up By: WayneD - Friday, May 08, 2015 at 02:54

Friday, May 08, 2015 at 02:54
Bob, Forgot to mention you can also get a Carfax report on the vehicle. buy and sell cars over here and it is a great system. Take your vehicle in to them and they will give you a firm purchase price within 30 minutes. I took an 18 month old Ford Explorer in to them and they were $2500 better than my trade in price. Their vehicle are sold at sticker price, what you see is what you pay. They will search title, any damage history plus do an inspection of the vehicle. Ask the seller if they have a report and if not ask them to get one, could save you a lot of money.
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Follow Up By: Bob W5 - Friday, May 08, 2015 at 17:53

Friday, May 08, 2015 at 17:53
Hi Wayne.
Thanks for your informative advice, much appreciated.
That's quite a background you have. :-)
39 states ! Wow. You guys would have a load of great campfire stories to tell !
At the end of this school term we will be driving to the S/E QLD coast for a 2 week break.
Once a week we drive out to the lake or into the desert for a campfire and bbq with friends, love country life, even in winter.
We will keep on doing our research, everytime we ask a question we learn something, we have emailed some shipping company's and received quote's on some different routes.
We have discovered that there is a lot of junk motorhomes for sale.
A couple who we met at a vintage caravan/hotrod weekend who have one, flew into LA, started looking there,
Then 4 states and 2 weeks later they found what they were looking for.
They then spent 3 and a half weeks touring and organising the shipping of their motorhome.
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